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Our Mesmerizing Media

The Media do not communicate a prior dominate ideology as false messages to the masses. The ideology is in the form of the media itself in the social division that it establishes. The mass media fabricate non-communication.
–Jean Baudrillard

It should come as no surprise that people still take everything they hear and see on the news at face value, and the people who think they don’t tend to be the ones who are the most guilty of it.

Lately, it has been the progressives who are the most visibly guilty of this, though not exclusively. They constantly talk about how they are fighting the status quo, but if you turn on the news for just a brief moment to almost any channel you will notice that most progressives are in lockstep with whatever the media happens to be saying.

Consider the recent shooting of Terence Crutcher. Initially we were provided a short, highly edited piece of police footage of an unarmed black man walking back to his car, and subsequently being shot by a police officer. We were told that this was an unwarranted, cold-blooded murder from the get go; without any other context whatsoever. That was the frame, and most of us, to one degree or another, ate it right up. In behavioral science, some call this a Psychological Chute. For the sake of brevity, let’s just say we were primed to think a certain way about an event before knowing anything objective or factual about the event. This might sound familiar to you; that’s probably because the chute inevitably leads to a commonly known cognitive bias called Confirmation Bias, and alternatively a heuristic termed Positive Test Strategy.

Within minutes social media was flooded with angry, irrational posts about an incident in which no one had any context besides what the media had framed for them.

The second phase of this mediatic hypnosis was to speak about the man’s family, church attendance, and status in college. All things that have nothing to do with the incident. We were inundated with the reactions of traumatized family members; which again, have nothing to do with the context of the situation. We all know that it is tragic when someone dies, but that does not tell us anything about the situation itself. Within a  few days, another shooting was reported in similar fashion.

This is how fervor for the Iraq war was maintained for such an extended period of time. Focusing on the minutiae of the war rather than asking why the hell we were there in the first place.

[If you’ll recall, there was an almost identical pattern in the media a couple months ago. The most deadly terrorist attack since 9/11 followed, not long after, by a week of racially charged reports of police shootings and subsequent deadly protests. This is a bit beyond the scope of the subject at hand; so I’ll leave this enigma for another post. In the mean time, it may do the reader some good to consider what sort of narrative the media is seeking to reinforce, and more importantly, why.]

Now before you get angry, and start squawking about my race and privilege; remember I have not given any opinion about what I think actually happened. I have not stated whether or not I think it was justified or a cold-blooded murder. I’m simply pointing out that many of you went on a cyber-rampage over an incident you had no information about. And that’s not even the craziest part, some people took to the streets looting businesses, setting things on fire, and assaulting random people. In Charlotte one black protester was shot and killed by another black protester. Do you think the media should be held responsible for this? I sure as hell do.

Psychology teaches us that once the evidence and context is produced we are less likely to believe the evidence if it deviates from the previous narrative we were primed with.

Do you feel a bit manipulated yet? We are quite often the hapless victims of what psychologist Robert Cialdini calls Pre-suasion. It’s why I don’t like watching the news. I know this is what happens, and I know that I am just as susceptible to it as you are. It’s why I avoid arguing as much as possible on social media, because rarely anyone is thinking rationally about these media spectacles. If you relax and take a slow breath deep into your abdomen you may suddenly realize you’re just wasting your time and energy. (Not to mention, your vitality.)

The media has failed us at best. And at worst, they are devious, scheming manipulators who seek to confuse and divide us. What is the best way to fight this? Go outside and meet your neighbors, read books, and take frequent breaks from the massive media machine that is driving us ever further into insanity.

Inside battle-scarred Syria, along the strained borders of Eastern Europe, and deep in the Pacific Theatre one can hear the faint beating of drums; portents of war.

Time to shake off the trance, and start paying attention…

Your future depends on it.

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